Hal Holbrook

The Legendary Hal Holbrook – Chapter 23

Chapter 23 tells of tuning for Hal Holbrook, and visiting with him on the phone.


It was after this event that I learned to research the lives of famous people before I met them, so I wouldn’t make as many faux pas. Also, so I would appreciate their accomplishments. I knew about Mark Twain Tonight, but I was not aware that he had played Lincoln twice, had received 5 Emmys and one Tony, and had played “Deep Throat” in All the President’s Men. It was in that last role where he had the famous line which is now used in all political scandal reporting, “Follow the Money.” It turns out that Deep Throat never said that line in real life. It was written by William Goldman, author of the screenplay. You may recall that Goldman wrote many famous screenplays, including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.


The meeting I recorded in Piano Dance was in 2015, and Holbrook continued playing Mark Twain until 2017. He played the role 2200 times over the course of 60 years. His marriage to Dixie Carter was his third marriage. She was best known for playing Julia Sugarbaker in “Designing Women.” There is an excellent article summarizing Holbrook’s life and career at this LINK.


One of my most striking memories was how much he was adored by his staff. All of them had been with him over 30 years. I got to meet the butler, the cook, the housekeeper, the personal secretary, and the bookkeeper. It takes a lot of people to keep a home that large functioning. The butler was particularly friendly and willing to talk about the household, and the high regard they all had for Mr. Holbrook. When I met Mr. Holbrook, it was immediately apparent that he genuinely cared for other people. There was an affection for others in his countenance that was very unusual.


On a different note, you may have noticed that I reported that the College of William and Mary accepted only European-American students in the 1960’s. Anthropologists tell us that words are very powerful, determining the boundaries in which we think. If we use the term “African-American” for some of our citizens and “White” for others, it can lead uninformed people to think of themselves as “White Nativists,” as though they belong here and the African-Americans do not. In fact most African-Americans have deeper roots in America than most European-Americans. The majority of European-Americans can trace their American ancestry back only as far as the massive migrations of the late 19th century.


On the other hand, most African-Americans had ancestors here prior to 1808. That was the year the “Act Prohibiting the Importation of Slaves” took effect. There was still some smuggling of slaves into the country after that date, but the importation was dramatically reduced after January 1, 1808. It was believed at the time, that the act would gradually end slavery. It would not. Slave breeding became so prevalent, that we actually exported slaves to Cuba. As a result of the Act, the majority of African-Americans have roots in America before 1808.


I propose, therefore, that we stop using the term “White,” and substitute “European-American,” in an effort to give all our citizens the respect they deserve, including not only African-Americans, but those of other races, as well.